The Visiting Nurse Home Care & Hospice (VNHCH) of Carroll County (NH) and Western Maine offers a no-cost community palliative care program in an effort to better support people in the community living with chronic disease. The program discovers goals of care via conversations to align with people’s wishes.
Those who take part can self refer to the program or be referred by a caregiver or healthcare professional. The program is modeled after the Pemi-Baker Community Health program in Plymouth, NH. The function of palliative care is providing pain and stress relief to patients with a serious health problem.
Julie Lanoie is the Palliative Care Manager with VNHCH, and was instrumental with launching the program two years ago.
Taking financing out of palliative care
“A lot of available palliative care is not reimbursed, and this is a free program,” Julie said. Taking the financial element out of it allows her team to focus on a patient’s wishes.
“What do patients need to make things better? We talk about how sustainable is the current caregiver plan? How can we help to make it more sustainable? That might be getting additional helpers or looking at placement options. We connect patients with resources so they don’t feel isolated.”
Conversations include but are not limited to:
- Advance directives
- How to apply for Medicare
- Symptom management
- What do you still want to be able to do?
Perhaps there’s a wedding that’s been on hold due to the pandemic, and a patient wants to be there in person. Julie and the team will work with the patient on accomplishing goals, and how to make care decisions that support those goals.
The pandemic has caused many caregiving programs to pivot or pause, and Julie is looking forward to getting volunteers back in person with patients, as well as providing respite for caregivers, which is always needed.
Palliative care reduces unwanted hospitalization
Multiple studies show palliative care lowers the need for hospitalizations, including readmissions, and those who do require hospitalization have shorter stays when palliative care is part of healthcare.
Heart disease, cancer and diabetes cause the majority of deaths and disability in the United States, and lead the $3.3 trillion annually spent on healthcare in this country, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A study by Florida TaxWatch claims palliative care could reduce societal healthcare costs by $103 billion over the next 20 years. Additionally, the study says palliative care reduces hospital costs with fewer 9-11 calls, emergency department visits and urgent hospitalizations.
Palliative care happens at any age and during any stage of a serious illness. Julie notes that palliative care does not mean “the end.” They may work with patients for years as goals of care shift.
“I like to stress, you can think of palliative care as an additional layer of support for you as you go through hard stuff and customize what that looks like for you,” she said.
Contact VNHCH at 603-356-7006.